The book of Philemon has a triangular structure and focuses on three characters which are Philemon, Paul and Onesimus with Paul at the centre.
Philemon was a man of faith, a lover of God and God’s people and also pastored a church in his home in Colosse. He was a partner with Paul in the ministry and Paul was happy to hear about the great work that Philemon was doing in Colosse. Through his pastoring, the saints there are being grounded in the word of God, stayed together in love and were being refreshed.
Paul however sought reconciliation between Onesimus and Philemon. Onesimus had wronged his master Philemon greatly, and ran away. He had betrayed his master’s trust and fled. Onesimus was an unprofitable and useless servant.
THE FATHERLY ROLE OF PAUL
Onesimus encountered Paul and his life became transformed. He became a christian. The word of God and undergoing mentorship under Apostle Paul transformed him, the once unprofitable and useless servant became profitable that even Paul referred to him as Son. His past has passed, Onesimus is now a new creature 2Corinthians 5 17-21).
THE RECONCILATORY ROLE OF PAUL
Paul wanted to keep Onesimus with him, but He knew that Onesimus was going to be a powerful and living testimony of the SAVING GRACE OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST not only to the church in colosse but to the ends of the earth.
Paul, who was once Saul, a terrorist and anti gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ before He had an encounter on the way to Damascus can relate with the infirmities and short coming of Onesimus, and knew that He will be profitable to Philemon’s ministry; and urged Philemon to receive Onesimus back not as a slave but as brother in Christ.
Paul knew that the word of God had so much transformed Onesimus that He wrote to Philemon to receive Onesimus as He, Philemon would receive himself Paul.
That means what Paul was saying to Philemon is-
Onesimus was once your slave but you are joint heirs in Christ
The honour and regard that you will give to me is what you should give to him
The accolade and special guest welcome that you would give to me is what you should give to Onesimus.
PAUL PUT THE DEBT ON ONESIMUS UNPON HIMSELF
(Phil 1 vs 18-19) 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back.
Paul was a father indeed to Onesimus, He carried him on his back. He knew that Philemon will honour his request as a partner in Christ; therefore Paul praised Philemon’s obedience in advance.
Therefore, the lessons learnt from the book of Philemon can be iterated as follows:
This book also stresses the saving and transforming grace of our LORD JESUS CHRIST and the beauty of forgiveness. As a Shepard, people will mess with your emotions and hurt you, but we must learn to forgive others their tress passes even as our heavenly Father forgives us of our shortcomings.